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September 26, 2017

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Djokovic and Ferrer reach US Open semis

NEW YORK -- If the rest of the week goes the way Novak Djokovic hopes, he'll play two more matches at Flushing Meadows and end up holding the U.S. Open trophy for the second straight year.

Hard to imagine he'll play much better, or put on a more entertaining show, than he did on Thursday.

Djokovic made it to his 10th straight Grand Slam semifinal by beating No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro a 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a 3-hour, 6-minute tennis masterpiece.

Next up for Djokovic is Saturday's clash with David Ferrer, who advanced to his fourth career major semifinal in his typical, never-say-quit fashion. He outlasted eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in 4 hours, 31 minutes.

Djokovic deftly turned defense into attack, sometimes in the span of a single shot, and del Potro was often left shaking his head, wondering what more he had to do.

It was a match worthy of two former U.S. Open champions, playing in the sport's biggest stadium under the lights.

"I didn't expect anything less," Djokovic said.

The high point came late in the back-and-forth, 84-minute second set — 11 minutes longer than Djokovic's entire first-round match — when del Potro forced a tiebreaker by saving three set points to win a game that extended to eight deuces and lasted 17 minutes.

Second-seeded Djokovic won the tiebreaker 7-3, but really it was the 20-shot point that made it 6-3 that finished it off.

Del Potro, the 2009 champion, hustled to the net to chase down a drop shot, then retreated when Djokovic lobbed that reply over his head. He returned a deep lob that gave him time to get into position to hit a solid backhand back. Djokovic answered that with a drop volley, which del Potro got to, but hit long.

Djokovic pumped both fists in the air and del Potro sagged his 6-foot-6 frame onto the net, resting his forearms there before taking a towel and draping it over his head for the long walk back to the baseline. Djokovic closed out the set with a running backhand winner from four feet behind the baseline — not the first or last time he rapidly turned from defender to aggressor on a night when he hit 43 winners, including 14 from the backhand side.

The crowd, as it had so many times over the thrilling end to that set, stood and roared.

"That was an incredible feeling for a player to see," Djokovic said. "Then you get more excited and motivated to play even better. Probably one of the better sets I have played in 2012, for sure. He's a great opponent."

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